A fun macro lens to play with

Seed pods with an Easy-Macro Lens

I've coveted a nice macro lens for my DSLR for years but I haven't been able to splurge. When I read about the Easy-Macro lens for camera phones I thought at $15 that's an investment rather easy to risk should it turn out to be rubbish - wish I wasn't so slow to the party, it's been out since 2011.

I was so surprised at what this tiny lens on a rubber band could achieve. While there's not much depth of field and you have to get very close to the subject to focus it, I found it really fun to use. It takes a little practice and it's important to be quite still but I managed to snap some pretty good shots with it anyway. In the process I even discovered tiny, unwelcome creatures living on one of my stalks of dried seed pods – they've since since been released to the wild.

The spider wasn't easy to shoot because I kept getting jumpy every time I got close enough to snap him (you must almost touch the subject to use this lens) but again, not too bad a shot. The snail was very accommodating though and even posed for me.

The Easy-Macro doesn't have the crisp, high definition of a £1500 macro, but at £15 (plus £5 shipping) I've already enjoyed more that my money's worth with it. I've also discovered one of the best things about it is that it's one of those tools the kids can really explore with too. Not only is it easy for children to attach the lens, it's also a great learning tool.

I noticed a Kickstarter campaign was launched to help finance the next version of the lens, unsurprisingly they've reached their goal with time to spare. If you need a budget lens that you can slip in your pocket when you run out the door, give it a try.

Happy Monday!

Unknown seed pod
Snail shell
Snail friend
Spider macro

the magic of mist

One misty morning
View from a misty morning walk

Autumn is drawing in and mornings are becoming cooler and the mist heavier. Last week I snapped a few pictures of magic the mist brings by showing off another sign of the season, web building (the arachnid variety).

The day before, these webs would have been invisible to passerbys. But this misty morning they were visible every step of the way. Here are a few varieties of constructions I saw, oddly, most of the builders were hiding at the time.

Crystal web

Ground webs

Delicate web

Fishing line web

Fine web

Diamond web

Spider flats

This last one is taken of a holly section of hedgerow and looks like a block of flats to me.

I long for the day when I have time to remember to take along a decent camera and stop relying on my phone for images. Having said that, my DSLR is in need of a serious upgrade so until then I'll enjoy what I have to hand and keep in mind it's better than no visual reminders at all.

Speaking of visuals, I took really subpar video of Tristan's performance at the art week that kicked off this weekend, I really must find a better way to record. He was asked to perform a whole set and in spite of the base player getting cold feet at the last moment, he and the drummer still took to the stage and gave a rousing performance, including one of his own compositions this time.

Tris was also interviewed and performed live on local radio which I'll link to as soon as I can sort out the audio file – I'm not sure how, but I'm quite sure I held my breath through the whole thing!

Hope you had a fantastic weekend too, what did you get up to?


Last tooth & tooth fairy pouch tutorial revisit

The last tooth

Gracie has lost her last primary tooth (wisdom teeth aside). She may not be so sorry to see them go as they were enamel deficient and her adult teeth are not, but it can make a mother a bit sad to be leaving the early years behind.

Tomorrow is also the end of primary school as she embarks on her next stage, the start of secondary school. Butterflies have been gathering in the tummy and we've already had restless nights, but I know she'll be okay. It may take a while to feel settled but I know it will happen – besides, she has that younger sibling advantage of having a brother who will be there for her.
Tooth pouch dual
Tooth pouch tutorial

It's hard to believe I created this tooth fairy pouch pattern and tutorial when Gracie lost her very first tooth, it was also the topic of my very first blog post.
Like lots of parents I'm excited for the children to start a new year but already lamenting the loss of varied routines and kicked off shoes. Tomorrow it's back to packed lunches and early rises, the upside being no "I'm starving!" interruptions followed by the lengthly "your quite capable of making your own lunch" discussions. Really, I miss them already.
Next Sunday is the Wiveliscombe Street Fair as part of the 10 parishes festival. We're really excited about Tris performing a whole set on one of the stages – he's also one of the acts that will be broadcast on the local radio station. So if you're in the Wiveliscombe area next Sunday drop by – it's a great day with loads of food stalls, local ales and cider and music all day. Did I mention the ales? 
Also, I've been trying out the Easy Macro lens for my iPhone. It's such an easy and inexpensive solution to trying to get close up shots with a phone camera. I'll update this space with samples from this new little toy soon. At only $15 plus $5 shipping from the States it's already proving to be well worth the investment. And speaking of investment, I noticed the Macro lens people have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the development of their next lens – I hope they do well.
Time to get dinner on and have an early night, school tomorrow!

PS - Am I the only one Typepad no long gives paragraph breaks to? Sometimes they happen, more often than not, they don't :(


Spider tent
Nursery web spider, Pisaura mirabilis

We've just returned from three glorious weeks with family and friends in California. Whenever we visit I get the usual question regarding where is home now for me. After being in the UK for 16 years the answer is a tough one. I adore my family and extended family so much that it's great being back in their protective, nurturing environment. But I love our life in the UK too, it's been good to me and our UK family and friends have too. 

Baby spids
Spiderlings inside their protective web, mother stands guard outside

Just before we left on our trip we found out our landlord is selling the home we rent so soon we'll be moving yet again. The children are so happy in the village where we live that they were desperately unhappy to come home to a "For Sale" sign on the house. I wish I could spin a silky web around them to gaurd them from unpleasantness and predators like this nursery spider does for her young. But this is another little bump in the road that we will get over and life will roll on and I'm sure benefits will come from it.
Right now we're basking in the afterglow of the fun we had in California, giving our doggie lots of cuddles and catching up on sleep. Luckily there was finally a bit of rain while we were away so things are a little greener than when we left and there's a bumper crop of blackberries waiting to be picked in the back garden.
Hope your summer has been fabulous!

Belated wishes

Tris - Gracie 10001

Tris - Gracie 20001

Tris & Gracie 3

Tris - Max

Happy 15th birthday Tristan (for July 30th!)

A belated post due to travels but no less heartfelt for my boy. I thought I would share a few images that show your most endearing quality - you've always been so sweetly affectionate. I recently went through old boxes of pictures and nearly every image of you and your sis shows you hugging her; this last image of you and your second cousin Max from just last weekend shows that the teenage years haven't changed that sweet quality. Don't ever change, we love you.

Happy birthday Tris,

Mama xoxo


_68461420_68461416When I saw the Rolling Stones twenty years ago on their Voodoo Lounge tour I thought maybe it would be the last chance to see them live. I thought they're all at least 50 now, how much longer can they possibly go on? 

We weren't lucky enough to get tickets to Glastonbury but the BBC has had tons of coverage this year so Tris and I stayed up last night to watch the Stones headline set live. We were amazed! All their hits were just as great as ever and Mick's strut hasn't changed a bit. With the exception of being a little more out of breath here and there Mick was outstanding, they all were. (Image from BBC)

The best part was watching it with my rock loving boy. I never in a million years would have imagined this band still at it in 2013, nor that I'd have such a great kid to share it with. We're already working out how to get to Glastonbury next time around.

Last fete
Beautiful day for our last school fete yesterday

We're busy wrapping up end of school year stuff. Gracie is on the home stretch, finishing primary school and heading off to the same school as her brother next year. Both kids are going through outrageous growth spurts; the upside to this being my daughter has outgrown my shoes so I no longer have to search for them all over the house.

Overflowing garden
Our little garden is now bursting

Tris has been asked to play a number of events coming up including a solo performance at a food and music festival which is a big honour for him as he might be the only amateur. And Gracie's rounders team has just made it to the regional playoffs. Like most parents, the children's schedules make life very full, especially this time of year.

Blackberry blossoms

For me, in between work I'm trying to squeeze in making a new bag for summer and I'm loving the outcome so far. It involves tweeking my Forager Bag pattern to include a zipped top close, removing the flap, adding outer pockets, a leather strap... a little more than tweeking then.

Right now I'm:

  • Wishing I could find nice summer sandals in my size, any suggestions for me?
  • Really wishing I could snap these beauties up.
  • Loving the latest issue of this brilliant magazine where I learned there's actually a job titled Head of the Dye room behind the scenes at the National Theatre, how great is that? 
  • Trying to perfect a semi-healthy snack, these are next on my list – and her nail colour really makes me want to paint my nails.

I hope your summer is shaping up well, what are you up to?




climbing and unfurling

sweet peas stretching upwards

Our little garden is exploding with growth – I honestly think I can see these sweet peas growing. 

dandelion garden

And the dandelions are exceptionally prolific this year. I told Gracie we'd welcome them because the bees need every happy habitat they can find. She took that as a good reason to pick every single one and blow their seed on every inch of garden not yet claimed. She's such a helper.

field of buttercups

On my walks the fields and meadows are filled with colour.

Cow parsley
cow parsley

And hedgerows are beautiful with delicate blooms, unfurling ferns and tiny inhabitants.


Life in hedgerows
web building

Walking back through the village the neighbouring lilac trees smell divine.

white lilac (does that make sense?)

If I were Thumbelina I'd curl up and nap on these pillowy blooms.

I hope you're absorbing every last drop of what spring has to offer. Though she's come late to us this year Spring's more than made up for her tardiness with the spectacular show she's putting on.

Happy Thursday :)

Remembering and helping

An unexpected absence from my blog and an unexpected return too.
Though I haven't been able to keep my blog up I hope there are still followers who will share a moment of reflection with me in tribute to Kathreen and her family.
As I'm online so little these days I only found out last night about the loss of Kathreen and her husband Rob. I had just received email from her the day before her accident which somehow made the news that much more unbelievable. The feeling of having been punched in the stomach hasn't gone away.
I "met" Kathreen in the early Whip Up days and was lucky to be invited to write tutorials and guest posts on Whip Up and create projects for Action Pack too. She was a major spoke in a mighty wheel that became a huge online creative community. On Whip Up she didn't court controversy nor did she shun it. And her voice always seemed to be her own right from the start, not an idealized version of the self she wanted us to see.
Our children are the same ages and my heart hurts for hers and Rob's. If you can offer support, a fund has been set up for their daughter Otilija and son Orlando, you can find the details here.
Thanks Kathreen for all you've given your readers and the wider community too, we'll miss you.
PS - If you've been under an even bigger rock than me and hadn't yet heard this news you can Google Australian news sites to find out more.

A very Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful mum's I know, especially my own mama.

Today I was treated as I normally am on my birthday and Mother's Day to baked treats by my children. Tristan organises the baking - today it was a savoury scone number with lots of choices of spreads.

Gracie usually takes charge of card making and this morning she had fun with a craft knife. Hmmm, that sounds odd now that I type it.

I'm never allowed to get out of bed and the room service is exceptional. Later I'm hoping I can coax both children to our favourite woodland for a walk. We like this place. Ferns grow overhead, there are lots of fallen trees to climb and meadows here and there where our novice archer likes to aim her bow.

I truly wish all mothers could have such a special day.

A note about my previous post: Regarding the Tunic Pattern, I forgot to mention it's the "Schoolhouse" Tunic. I also forgot to say the sizing I referred to is American, not UK or European sizing.

Thank you for your sweet comments.

J x

A very Happy Mother's Day

A very Happy Mother's Day

A very Happy Mother's Day

Pattern Review and Winners

New tunic sml

I've hoarded this blue medium weight linen for so long now, waiting to make this tunic, the pattern designed by Meg McElwee of Sew Liberated. Finally my need for new clothes won out and I made it, bit-by-bit. I literally worked on it in 15 minute intervals whenever I could squeeze the sewing in. That in mind, it was an easy pattern to follow, requiring simple supplies and not much brain power. I enjoyed making it so much that my desire to own a good serger is making me a little crazy. Because I used linen I zig-zagged every seam to decrease fraying and make in longer wearing, a serger would have been so much quicker,

I like the shape of this tunic because of it's slightly sinched-in, high waist and in linen it's really a blank canvas for embellishment. As I'm small, flowy tunics tend to drown me or make me look like I'm wearing a nightie though I'm really loving the way this one Margie made turned out.

Things to think about in making this pattern
Skill level. I would consider it for intermediate sewists, not beginner. A true beginner might struggle with a couple of things like sewing on curves and top-stitching, both tasks that need a little time to master. If you've sewn tops with sleeves before then this won't be a difficult pattern for you.

Also, the pattern suggested a lightweight fabric, the one I chose is not lightweight linen and I love the way it turned out so I would suggest a fabric with some drape is necessary, but light or medium weight will work.

Sizing. The pattern is for size 2 - 20. One reason I chose this tunic pattern was the fact that it is in two parts, top and skirt. I like the idea of being able to make the skirt bigger as the top of my body is very narrow and my bottom is not.

I found it true to size after making it, but as it was my first attempt I chose to make the top size 6/8 even though I'm a 2/4 because I didn't want it to be snug with tops worn underneath – the smaller size would have been fine. And though I made the skirt from the 10/12 pattern and reduced the waist to the 6/8 to match the top, I didn't have to, in fact the skirt turned out a bit big so I might alter it at some point. Due to the fuller skirt of this pattern the 2/4 all over would have fit just fine but I still love it the way it is. Clear as mud?

Should you have the opposite sizing issue of being bigger on top then on the bottom this pattern would be handy for you too. Simply adjusting the waist size of the top by tapering it in at the sides to fit the smaller bottom. 

I like the way Meg writes her patterns, they're worded the way we might explain instructions to a friend, unlike traditional patterns. 

So the verdict, I will definitely use this pattern again, but I would stick to a smaller size overall because there's plenty of room in the skirt. 

Now on to the Action Pack Winners
The winners were Val (aka Dottycookie) and Silvia of Little Green Doll. Thanks for participating, I'll pass your names on to Kathreen and you'll receive email from her regarding your copy. It may take a little while for her to get back to you though, she's travelling with her family for a whole year and not always able to get Internet connection. Find details about this latest "Water" issue here.

Have a great weekend,